Updating your will

Having done the hard work of getting together a mass of information, taking some perhaps tough decisions and then actually making a will, far too many people, feeling fairly – and perhaps forgivably – pleased with themselves, then take the risk that all their work may come to count for nothing by not keeping that will up to date.

Elderly people who try to control their family and friends with monthly codicils – as changes to an existing will are called – are not just figures from fiction, but sadly nor are wills making a specific bequest to a daughter of a piece of jewellery already given to a niece, with unfortunate results.

You would think that getting married would be the best possible reason to make or review a will, but many people think, quite wrongly, that, once married, everything goes to the surviving spouse. This is absolutely not the case for most people and could be a serious problem for the survivor, so it is absolutely vital to review your will when you get married or enter a civil partnership.

Reasons to review your will

Here are twelve good reasons to review your will – and if in doubt, have a look anyway.

If it is more than the five years we recommend since you reviewed it, you are almost certain to find something you want or need to change.

1. If you get married or enter a civil partnership any existing will is rendered null and void.

2. You have a new baby (or grandchild) or adopt a child.

3. You want to appoint a different person as the guardian for your children.

4. There is a death in the family.

5. You acquire or dispose of a significant asset such as a house or a business.

6. Your general financial situation changes for better or worse.

7. You sell or give away something that is specified item in your existing will.

8. You decide to move outside the UK – and you will probably need a new will in your new country.

9. A beneficiary or an executor dies.

10. You want to add another beneficiary or other organisation such as a charity in your will.

11. You reach retirement age or a time when your own medical or other healthcare requirements become important.

12. You simply change your mind about an aspect of the will.

What you need to do

You can simply alter the will document itself, but we do not recommend this. Such amendments can be made provided that you sign the amendment in the presence of two witnesses who then also sign. All three signatures need to be in the margin of the document opposite the amendment.

The Probate Registry will not accept the alteration if it is in any way unclear.

Using a codicil

A codicil can be used to make minor alterations to your will without the need for a completely new one. A codicil is appropriate if, for example, you want remove or add a beneficiary or alter the amount of money in a legacy.

It is a formal document and is subject to the same requirements as the will itself; that is, it needs to be properly prepared, then signed and witnessed by two independent people.

These people do not need to be those who witnessed the original will, but using the same witnesses may simplify the probate process later.

A codicil is an independent document and will not automatically be cancelled if you make a new will. This is why the revocation clause in your new will must expressly revoke all previous codicils as well as all previous wills.

If you want to make a change that is any way fundamental we recommended that you make a new will. As always, we recommend that you take professional advice.

Please note

The information which we provide through Lasting Post is in outline for information or educational purposes only. The information is not a substitute for the professional judgment of a solicitor, accountant or other professional adviser. We cannot guarantee that information provided by Lasting Post will meet your individual needs, as this will very much depend on your individual circumstances. You should therefore use the information only as a starting point for your enquiries.